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Chat with Neil Bera — Member, SMART Recovery


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/02/02

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You have an association with SMART recovery. What is it? What is your relationship with it as an entity?

Neil Bera: It stands for self-management and recovery training. It allows building coping mechanisms with cognitive behavioral therapy. We can dig into our innermost roots of our feelings and thinking, and thoughts, and instinctive behavior and reactions to things. It is to have the ability to control our behaviors as a result of our thinking, whether that be gambling or sex or drug addiction or alcohol. it doesn’t matter.

I think the dynamic of having that in our meetings makes it more effective than alternative programs such as the 12-step program.

Jacobsen: What do you think are some of the weaknesses of the 12-step programs?

Bera: Dependency is the issue that you start off with, in my opinion at least, though I go to AA meetings and practice 12-steps, I notice its flaws. The dependence is on a higher power or a group of A members or a sponsor for example. It is as if you are not in a position to make a decision on your own. It is almost as if your empowerment is taken away from you.

I think its singular purpose is beneficial for so many people such as alcoholics or drug addictions. I still find the singleness in purpose takes away from the purpose of trying to become a better person. While that may help the person that needs one thing, I find most people who are addicts tend to have another underlying behavioral problem that needs to be addressed. That may be mental illness.

For example, I am bipolar. If I was only doing the 12-step program instead of being able to be open at SMART meetings about my bipolar, I wouldn’t get the feedback because that’s not their focus.

Jacobsen: Why is SMART important as an organization in general?

Bera: Knowing what they are and where they came from, they are a small community in comparison obviously to AA and other programs. I think the hierarchy that they have developed that makes a lot of sense in terms of creating facilitators. They have meeting facilitators. They are pretty much being of service in the sense that someone in AA is being asked to service because they are helping other addicts with their problems.

In doing so, they are feeling great about it themselves and in the process spreading the program. I have only been going to one meeting a week, but the same meeting for the last 21 months. That is how long I have been sober. That is not just from AA.

That started with SMART. I wanted to be sober. I thought about both, went to both, but going to the meetings and seeing Steve (my facilitator) helps us out. He doesn’t run the meeting. It is almost like a machine in itself. I think the cross-talk in the community within each meeting really makes it special. It almost feels like a place to feel better.

I have never left a SMART meeting on a bad note. Let’s put it that way.

Jacobsen: What is your main initiative in personal and professional life?

Bera: Currently, I am practicing as an architect. I wasn’t because of alcoholism and drug addiction. It was difficult to get my feet on the ground again. The last three or four years or so. I have been able to get back on my feet and get some sobriety under my belt, get the confidence that I need to succeed again, where I left my path.

My addiction took over. That work is really important in terms of my routine. I think the main thing now is to continue to maintain. What I mean by that is that in AA, it doesn’t feel like it is a maintenance program; it feels like you’re going to have to keep doing it forever, and ever, and ever. It feels constrictive in a sense. With SMART, I almost want to check in every week to make sure I left everything on the table.

It is almost as if because of the tools of the program have changed my way of thinking. I think that is the name of the game at the end of the day.

Jacobsen: Last question, do you have any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?

Bera: I think being persistent has been key to my recovery. In a sense that I have been doing this for 7 years now, when I got my first DUI, it only got worse. I didn’t find a solution in a lot of things. I just kept getting a little ibt, like 30 or 60 days at a time. I coudn’t change the way I was thinking.

Cognitive behavioural therapy, it is a way of changing the way we see things. If not for SMART, it wouldn’t have stuck with me that I can take charge of my life and take care of myself as long as I work on a few things on myself better. The clear goals are obvious.

We can decide on what problems need attention and what ones don’t because of one singular program, and I think this is more effective that I have utilized in the past. The good thing for me is that it allowed me to become the person that I was on my way to becoming before this.

I am very grateful to SMART.

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Neil.

Bera: No problem.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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